We’ve all experienced that moment when you attempt to write a song but “The Force” just isn’t with you! Regardless if you’re struggling to get your song started or are having difficulties staying on topic throughout the songwriting process using this simple Storyboard technique will prove to be an invaluable asset. Let’s get straight to it, shall we?
The picture below is a realistic example of how I use storyboards. I’ll expound on each step so that you understand my thought process within each section.
Music That Moves
This is the first step. It’s important to pick an instrumental that moves you emotionally. If you’re not really into the instrumental then it will likely be more difficult to write to it. If you’re feeling the instrumental then you can identify what emotions you’re experiencing which will also bring thoughts and ideas for your songwriting.
This is where you jot down any and all ideas that come to mind. You haven’t committed to any topic at this point so it’s okay to be random. You’re just trying to document what you feel emotionally along with what ideas come to mind.
After you’ve brainstormed for a few minutes it’s time to commit to a topic or theme you want the song to be about. In this example, I went with “my first heartbreak” and scratched out “death of a friend” just because I wasn’t in the mood to go that deep at the moment.
The less specific the hook is the more flexible you will be during the songwriting process. Also if you knock out the hook first you will have more focus and clarity while writing your verses.
In this example I want the hook to basically say “I’ve never felt like this before, I’ve never felt this way before”. Again, these are just ideas. Once I start playing adding lyrics to the hook the melody or cadence I come up with may require fewer or more syllables but at least I know what I generally want to say beforehand.
Since my hook doesn’t say anything about breaking up with my girlfriend I can now be creative on how I wish to structure my verses. If I began verse 1 with immeditaly talking about my break up it wouldn’t mean anything because there isn’t any context. Instead, I decided to take a smarter approach and begin my song from… well… the beginning of how this actually started! lol!
For verse 1 I decided to talk about having a crush on a girl I was afraid to ask out. 16 bars is plenty of time for me to paint the picture for this section of the song. My goal is that I want the listener to experience my insecurities. I want them to feel how vulnerable I am as I’m trying to build of the courage to put it all on the line at the risk of facing rejection.
In verse 2 I’ve not only built up the courage but now I’m talking about going on my first date with her. What was I so worried about? All is well with the world! My crush and I are now an item! Yaaay MEEEE! Perhaps I’ll speed up the timeline a bit in verse 2 and cover about 6 months of me and my new girlfriends awesome time together.
The storyline is progressing and as it does notice how the “general and vague” hooks keep having slightly different meanings based on what the verses are saying leading up to them? “I’ve never felt this way before”
Verse 1 is about never being so vulnerable and afraid of rejection.
Verse 2 is about never being in love before.
Verse 3 is about never having your heart broken before.
Now it’s time to throw a curve ball at the listener while giving the hook a dramatically different meaning. Up until now, you think the song is about falling in love. Now it becomes about feeling betrayed and hurt since you see the person you were in love with, out with someone else after they started acting distant toward you.
Because we took the time to paint the whole picture from the beginning until now, the heartbreak has context and consequently has much more impact! Always remember that songwriting is all about context! How things are connected together and being set up throughout the song. Having context is what also makes punchlines hit extra hard!
As an added bonus perhaps you leave the listener with one final punch by using something that’s quotable for example “Never fall for someone unless they are falling with you”.
This leaves the listener with a conclusion which adds extra value to the song. Perhaps the listener is going through a similar situation and by giving them some insight you’re able to help them through a tough time. If you’re able to do this you will likely have a fan for life! It’s one thing for someone to enjoy a song but to have their life impacted in a deep and profound way is a whole nother level!
Keep in mind that no lyrics have even been written yet! This is just the storyboard which is basically an outline or the plan you’re using to execute your song like a Jedi Master!
Using storyboards gives you clarity on what you’re trying to say and your action plan for getting your ideas across. If you use this method you will know if you have a dope song or not before you even write the lyrics! The next time you write a song try creating a storyboard first and see what happens.
One Last Thing
If this article was helpful to you please let me know by dropping me a comment below. I’d really appreciate it!